Investing in Space

SpaceX successfully flies Mars prototype rocket for the first time

Key Points
  • SpaceX's prototype Starship rocket flies the first time in a short test flight.
  • "Starhopper flight successful," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says.
  • The rocket is the prototype for a massive rocket that SpaceX is building to launch up to 100 people to the moon and Mars.
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SpaceX successfully flies Starship rocket after months of testing

SpaceX launched and landed its Starhopper rocket in its first flight, a short test that saw the company take a giant leap forward in its development of a next-generation rocket that it hopes will take people to the moon and Mars.

The rocket is the prototype for SpaceX's vehicle called Starship. The company is building the enormous rocket to achieve its goal of transporting up to 100 people in the space flights.

"Starhopper flight successful," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet.

Musk posted a video SpaceX took of Thursday's flight test from a flying drone nearby. The flight took place at SpaceX's facility in Boca Chica Beach, Texas.

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The rocket lifted off the ground for the first time after months testing. SpaceX attempted the flight the previous night but stopped seconds after the engine fired. Although official data from Thursday's test flight has not yet been made available, SpaceX said previously that it was intending to fly Starhopper about 65 feet in the air.

Musk said in a tweet that SpaceX will try to fly Starhopper more than 650 feet up for another test "in a week or two."

Starship is built to be fully reusable, meaning the entire rocket will be able to launch, land and launch again — more akin to an airplane than a traditional rocket. Currently, SpaceX is able to land and reuse part of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. But Starship would take that to the next level and, especially, would help lower the cost per flight of a rocket launch.

Starhopper back on the launch pad after the first flight

SpaceX's prototype rocket "Starhopper" stands on its launchpad after completing its first flight.
@elonmusk | gif by @thesheetztweetz

SpaceX showed official footage of Starship's development for the first time during the aborted test on Wednesday. The program has been moving along quickly. SpaceX first tested the engine, which powered Starhopper's flight, in February. Known as Raptor, the engine then reached the "power level needed" to fly Starship just a week after its first test, Musk said.

Starhopper has just one Raptor engine. The final version of Starship will have multiple Raptor engines, while the Super Heavy booster that launches it will have as many as 31 Raptor engines.

The company is steadily raising funding for Starship and its internet satellite network, called Starlink. So far this year, SpaceX has sought more than $1.3 billion across three funding rounds. With over $1 billion already raised, SpaceX's valuation has risen to more than $33.3 billion.